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Hurricanes, Mike Vellucci agree to part ways

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The Calder Cup-winning coach says that he has been presented with a “new opportunity” elsewhere.

Jacob Kupferman/Charlotte Checkers

The Carolina Hurricanes and Charlotte Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci, who also served as an assistant general manager for the club, have mutually agreed to part ways, the team announced on Friday.

Tony Androckitis of Inside AHL Hockey reports that Vellucci will be the next head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, reuniting him with former Hurricanes organizational colleague Jim Rutherford in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.

Vellucci, who coached the Checkers to the Calder Cup championship in 2019, joined the Hurricanes in 2014 as an assistant GM and director of hockey operations soon after former general manager Ron Francis was hired. He had previously been the head coach and general manager of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers for 13 years, also owned at the time by then-Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos.

After the Checkers had cycled through two coaches in as many years, with first Mark Morris and later Ulf Samuelsson moving on to new positions, Vellucci made the move to Charlotte. In two seasons with the Checkers, Vellucci brought stability to the position, and was responsible for developing players who are now regulars with the Hurricanes, including Lucas Wallmark and Warren Foegele, as well as potential future contributors like Martin Necas, Clark Bishop and Jake Bean.

Vellucci was honored as the AHL’s Coach of the Year in 2019, a season in which the Checkers captured the first Calder Cup in franchise history and posted club records in wins (51) and points (110). The Checkers’ Calder Cup joined the Whalers’ 2007 OHL championship in Vellucci’s trophy case, and was the sixth league championship in his coaching career that dates to 1992, all of which was associated with Karmanos-owned teams until Tom Dundon bought the Hurricanes in January 2018.

Vellucci’s contract with the Hurricanes was ending on June 30, and while Hurricanes GM Don Waddell had expressed an interest in bringing Vellucci back to the organization, that agreement was not to be. Vellucci becomes the second member of the Hurricanes coaching staff to leave this offseason, following goaltending coach Mike Bales who took a position as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres.

The release from the team is below.

CANES AND MIKE VELLUCCI PART WAYS

Vellucci coached Checkers to Calder Cup title in 2018-19

Don Waddell, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team and Assistant General Manager/Director of Hockey Operations/Charlotte Checkers Head Coach Mike Vellucci have mutually agreed to part ways.

“I’m thankful for my time with the Hurricanes organization,” said Vellucci. “We created some great memories in Charlotte, including winning the franchise’s first Calder Cup and bringing the first championship to Charlotte last season. After 27 years it’s hard to leave, but I have been presented with an exciting opportunity that makes sense for my future.”

Vellucci, 52, completed his fifth season with the Hurricanes organization and his second as Checkers Head Coach in 2018-19. In two seasons behind the bench in Charlotte, he led the team to a 97-43-12 record, including an AHL-best 51-17-8 record in 2018-19. He was hired by Carolina as Assistant General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations on April 28, 2014, and became Checkers Head Coach on June 15, 2017. Prior to joining the Hurricanes organization, Vellucci was the Head Coach and General Manager of the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers from 2001-14, and also coached Detroit Compuware of the North American Hockey League from 1994-99.